Why Project Management for Consultants?: An Interview with Robert (Bob) Youker


World Bank (retired)


By International Consulting News


Editor’s note: This interview was conducted with Bob Youker by International Consulting News (ICN) in 1980 when Bob was still with the World Bank.  ICN is no longer in existence; this interview is republished here with Bob Youker’s consent. 

Bob Youker’s background summary can be found at the end of this interview

International Consulting News (ICN):              Bob, why is project management becoming an increasingly popular topic among managers and consultants?  

Bob Youker (Bob):             Perhaps the main reason is because society is moving toward more temporary systems, “adhocracy” as Toffler called it.  Given the environment surrounding most organizations and the pace of technological innovation, the emphasis in organizations is shifting from functions to tasks, in order to meet organizational objectives.

In my opinion, emphasis on Management  By Objectives has also contributed to the popularity of project management.  By definition MBO carves projects out of functional operations.

ICN:    There seems to be some confusion surrounding the terms project management, project organization and matrix management.  Would you define them differently or distinguish between them?

Bob:   Certainly, I would agree that confusion does exist, particularly between project management and project organization.  Project management is managing projects.  Projects are complex series of activities leading up to a specific end event.  The project is unique.  It is a one-time occurrence with a beginning and an end as contrasted with “operations” where activities may be cyclical or repetitive.  Project management may be carried out under any organizational structure.

Project organization is a single purpose structure organized around project outputs.  Usually such a structure is created on a temporary basis within a larger organization to attain a specific objective.  It is separated from the regular functional structure and set up as a self-contained unit headed by a project manager.  Interestingly, the internal structure of the project organization is functional.

Matrix organization is a multidimensional structure in which a lateral structure suitable for project coordination is super-imposed on a vertical functional structure.

ICN:    What are some of the pitfalls or problems inherent in project management?

Bob:   There are several.  At a general level, project management is frequently over complicated, over sophisticated and over jargonized by its users.

Project management involves detailed planning of uncertain future activities.  People hate to be pinned down about the future and so you hear comments like “let’s play it by ear.”  Critical path programming becomes a bitter pill to swallow.  Putting plans down on paper, in black and white, is something we don’t like to do as human beings and so this aspect of project management seems more like a punishment than an appropriate methodology.


To read entire interview (click here)